Development, Freedom and Rising Happiness: A Global Perspective 1981-2007
Perspectives on Psychological Science. 2008. Vol. 3. No. 4. P. 264-285.
Until recently, it was widely held that happiness ﬂuctuates around set points, so that neither individuals nor societies can lastingly increase their happiness.Even though recent research showed that some individualsmove enduringly above or below their set points, this doesnot refute the idea that the happiness levels of entire societies remain ﬁxed. Our article, however, challenges thisidea: Data from representative national surveys carriedout from 1981 to 2007 show that happiness rose in 45 of the52 countries for which substantial time-series data wereavailable. Regression analyses suggest that that the extentto which a society allows free choice has a major impact onhappiness. Since 1981, economic development, democratization, and increasing social tolerance have increasedthe extent to which people perceive that they have freechoice, which in turn has led to higher levels of happinessaround the world, as the human development modelsuggests.